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The importance of the maintenance of the normal skin barrier with emu oil.
by Dr. Leigh Hopkins
with permission from Emu's Zine
The skin serves numerous functions
but the primary protective or barrier function is the most obvious. All of
the cells in our bodies have miniature barriers called cell-walls to separate
each cell. The cell wall, in turn, must have many mechanisms that enable
the cells to communicate with other cells through pores, channels and receptors.
This communication is necessary since all the cells must function in an
orchestrated fashion to accomplish everything that we do in our daily lives.
The cell wall barriers are simply layers of fats that surround the watery
contents. Therefore, the communication mechanisms must operate through
these fatty cell walls. In fact, many of the substances that are involved
in this communication process are various fats since it is easiest for fats to
move within the fatty layers that comprise the cell walls. Our societal
attention to fats as only sources of calories and a sign of being overweight
does a critical disservice to the major importance that fats play in our
bodyís biochemistry and physiology.
Fatty substances control the majority
of our bodyís physiology through receptors that activate many important genes.
Likewise, our skin barrier is
comprised of a supporting structure of collagen, a protein, that contains fats
that serve a critical function. These fats prevent the excess loss of
water through our skin and prevent the cells of
our body from becoming dehydrated and
dying. A major sign of a defective skin is the dryness that results from
excessive water loss. This water can not be applied topically but must be
ingested otherwise we would drown in our shower. To prevent the excessive water
loss and the resulting dry skin, we must repair the skin barrier. We find that
the skin composition in individuals with dry skin is due to an improper mixture
of the skin fats. This is due to a deficiency in our diet of the correct
fats. On a nutritional basis, we can provide these necessary fats through
the skin. The skin is not a usual means to acquire nutrition but it can
absorb enough fatty substances to correct the fat imbalances that are the cause
of the defect in the skinís barrier function and thus correct the dry, itchy
Essentially, all moisturizing
lotions on the market do not contain nutrition for the skin but rather serve to
provide an artificial barrier through the use of petrolatum.
Petrolatum is an inert substance that does not allow water to escape through the
dry skin. Petrolatum is not a means to correct the underlying problem but
it is a temporary solution. However, if you want to have a normal healthy
skin that is as soft as babyís behind, you must supply the correct
composition of fats to the skin.
The fatty acid composition of
emu oil is very close to the correct composition of these fats as found in
normal skin. Thus, emu oil is an excellent moisturizer that returns the
skin to its natural barrier function. Emu oil can make the skin feel soft,
more elastic and firm due the restoration of the normal fats in the skin.